Huntsville man falls through mental health gap 100+ times - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Huntsville man falls through mental health gap 100+ times

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By law, when an officer encounters this man or any other person with a documented mental illness, they are required to reach out to the mental health center who sends a professional to intervene. By law, when an officer encounters this man or any other person with a documented mental illness, they are required to reach out to the mental health center who sends a professional to intervene.
HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) -

A Huntsville man had more than 100 run-in's with police, however he never stayed in jail or in a treatment facility.

It all came down to the laws surrounding mental health treatment.

This story came to light after a viewer contacted WAFF about this man, after he forced open the front door to her home on Pulaski Pike with her daughter alone inside.

"I said you better get out of here or I'm calling the cops," said Natalie Pamplin.

She called 911 and then her mother, Debra Pamplin, recognized the man her daughter described because he was well known in the neighborhood.

"He just walks up and down the road and urinates when he wants to at any business, and comes into the house," said Debra Pamplin.

WAFF-48 will not identify the man because of his mental illness.

Huntsville police also know him well and picked him up like they've done 168 times before, for crimes involving everything from public lewdness, disorderly conduct and criminal trespassing, all non-violent crimes.

By law, when an officer encounters this man or any other person with a documented mental illness, they are required to reach out to the mental health center who sends a professional to intervene.

His charge is then suspended while a petition is filed to involuntarily commit him to get treatment. If they meet the criteria of being a danger to themselves or others, they are placed in a treatment facility for up to 150 days or longer. 

However, "At some point that person is going to stabilize and no longer meet the criteria that is in the commitment law, and what that suggests is that we have no legal way any longer to hold this person against their will and force treatment upon them," said Brian Davis Executive Director of the Mental Health Center of Madison County.

He added that this situation is a classic case of a gap in the system because once a person is stable and are discharged from the facility, it is totally up to the person suffering from the illness to agree to treatment on an outpatient basis especially an adult.

Davis said he has no solution because it will take laws passed at the federal and state level to make a change and broaden the parameters of commitment law without violating someone's rights.

"That's the part of the law that has to be addressed in Alabama and nationally in a way that ensures public safety and respects someone's individual civil rights," added Davis.

Meanwhile, homeowner Debra Pamplin fears the next time that man decides to walk in someone's home.

Davis also added that there are hundreds of success stories where people who have received treatment for their mental illness function everyday and sadly we don't hear about the other side until something so drastic like a college campus shooting or in a movie theater.

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